Noland welcomes competition among Bison quarterbacks

Senior quarterback prepares for his first start later this month
Published: Feb. 2, 2021 at 10:20 PM CST
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FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) - As North Dakota State prepares to take the field this spring they will do so with a new starting quarterback.

Zeb Noland is taking the reins from Trey Lance as the sophomore has turned his attention to the NFL.

One season after Noland lost the starting job to Lance, he now steps in to the role with fresh eyes, new lessons learned and primed to leave his mark on Bison football.

“I know there were some hard decisions to be made for some seniors with moving on with life and I respect that but I think there was no closure,” senior Bison quarterback Zeb Noland said of the one-game fall season. “I needed to come back and be here for everybody and play for Bison Nation.”

Zeb Noland played in nine games at Iowa state before transferring to North Dakota State in 2019. Saying he was looking for an opportunity to play. He played in five games his last year at Iowa State, passing for 360 yards and two touchdowns in a loss to fifth-ranked Oklahoma. While going 70-for-110 for 722 yards and four touchdowns altogether in the sophomore season.

Instead of taking over the starting job left vacant by Easton Stick’s graduation, he became QB2. Backing up Trey Lance.

Instead of looking for another transfer, Noland chose to further commit and through competition, fostered a friendship with Lance.

“I think it’s special and I think that bond carries over to a lot of other guys on the team,” Noland said of their friendship. “You know if two guys can be best friends in the same room then why can’t everybody be as close and have such a positive, competitive culture everyday.”

Competitive being a key word there. When Noland took the backup role last season it only meant he worked harder.

“I was to the point when I got here, I was already 21 and had been in college football since spring of 2016,” Noland explained. “I think it’s just, I knew defense but I didn’t realize that there could be so many intricacies in the offense. Learning everything. Where to go with the ball, what to do, how to get out of a bad play and make a bad play better. Because a lot is on our plate each game.”

Noland says the biggest change from that 2019 fall camp has been all mental. Saying he’s ready now as he prepares to take his place under center.

“You know waiting it out has been worth it cause I mean I did learn a lot. I grew as a person, I grew as a football player.”

While he’s not Trey Lance, Noland will let you know he’s not that different from the last guy. Neither in measurable nor his ability to run the ball.

“You know I’m not the smallest guy either. I know Trey and I are about the same size and weight, he might have step on me but I’m excited to showcase [my ability to run the ball] and for anybody that doubts it, they’ll find out that I’ve got a little grit behind me too,” Noland said with a smile.

The competition doesn’t stop here though for Noland.

He’ll have the chance to return next fall but he’ll face another quarterback battle when he does. NDSU signed Virginia Tech transfer Quincy Patterson this winter but that doesn’t mean you should doubt Noland as QB1.

“He called me when he first entered the transfer portal and was like, ‘What do you think about being a Bison?” Noland said of the call. “I was like, ‘It is the greatest experience and the greatest decision I ever made in my life.”

Patterson and Noland worked out together in Chicago the last three years, along with current Arizona Cardinal and former South Dakota quarterback Chris Streveler.

As it turns out, Noland encouraged and supported Patterson in the move to Fargo.

“When you get around people for a long time and you compete, you realize a lot of time’s it’s bigger than yourself,” Noland said when asked why he would invite another transfer to compete for his starting job. “That’s what this program is about. Being selfless. And it would be an injustice to Bison Nation to not have somebody that you know cares about football and will give their all, to not be in this place and share the same experience.”

“As competitive as it is in our room, having him as an addition is awesome,” Noland went on to say. “I mean he is a good, humble young man and I just felt like he deserved this opportunity just as much as I did because he’s looking for the same exact thing I was when I left. Another opportunity to play for a place that cares for him and just wants him to be his best.”

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